MAYAKOBA RECAP: RIPPERS PLACE FOURTH; SIZZLING SMITH ENDS UP IN EIGHTH SPOT
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – It was a solid start to the year for the all-Australian Rippers as captain Cameron Smith shared eighth place on the individual leaderboard and the team narrowly missed out on a podium spot by finishing fourth at the season-opening LIV Golf Mayakoba.
Long regarded as one of the best putters in the game, Smith made a sizzling start to the final round with birdies on his first five holes (the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th) to move just two strokes off the lead at 8-under.
Although he failed to maintain that red-hot form over the closing holes, he mixed two more birdies with three bogeys to card a 4-under 67 at El Camaleon and post a 7-under total of 206.
Smith, who tied for third in total birdies for the week (with 16), received good support from his team mates as Ripper GC vied for a podium spot for much of the afternoon before finishing just one stroke shy with a 16-under total.
Newly-established expansion team Legion XIII led the team standings in Mexico, at 24-under, with Crushers GC second, at 20-under, and Torque GC third, at 17-under.
For the Rippers, Matt Jones was the best performer in the final round as he eagled the par-5 fifth on the way to a 5-under 66 and 25th place at 1-under, finishing level with Marc Leishman, who offset two birdies with a bogey for a 70. Jones performed brilliantly on the greens and ended the week ranked third in that category, with a total of 77 putts
Three-times DP World Tour winner Lucas Herbert, who filled the Ripper GC roster spot left open before the start of the 2024 season after the relegation of Jediah Morgan, returned a level-par 71 to share 21st spot at 2-under.
For the first time in the LIV Golf regular season, every score from every player counted toward their team's total score in Sunday's final round at Mayakoba, and Smith fully expected an afternoon of high drama and fluctuating fortunes.
"I think a tougher test on Sunday for the teams is definitely a good thing," Smith said before his team began the final round at El Camaleon in sixth place but just three shots off the podium. "Specifically here, because there's just so many holes where the tee shot demands such a good shot off the tee, and if you're not, you're dropping. A team could technically be up five or six with one hole to play, and it's really not over around here, so it'll be interesting."
Seven teams, including also Stinger GC, Fireballs GC and Smash GC, flirted with a podium spot on Sunday afternoon before Legion XIII, Crushers GC and Torque GC finally secured the top-three spots.
However, the Rippers have every reason to be satisfied with their start to the 2024 LIV Golf League season as they now head to Nevada for the February 8-10 LIV Golf Vegas.
One year ago, the Australian combination enjoyed a stellar performance on the greens at LIV Golf Mayakoba before ending the week riding high in fifth spot on the team standings while captain Smith celebrated a sixth-place finish on the individual leaderboard.
That strong start paved the way for a largely successful 2023 season. With Smith leading superbly by example, the Rippers produced a team win in Bedminster, a runner-up spot in London and five other top-seven finishes in 13 regular-season starts. They had high hopes going into the season-ending Team Championship in Miami but had to settle for ninth place in the team standings after being upset 2-1 by the 10th-seeded Cleeks in the matchplay quarterfinal round.
On the individual front, Smith won twice last year in 13 LIV Golf starts while notching up four other top-10s to wind up second in the overall standings. Leishman placed 18th after ending the year with three top-eight finishes in his last five starts.
With all four Rippers players finishing in the top half of the leaderboard at the 2024 LIV Golf Mayakoba, the Australian quartet is targeting even greater success for this year.